China invests heavily in military artificial intelligence

The People's Liberation Army of China (PLA) appears to be spending about the same as the US military on artificial intelligence, or AI, and has made "excellent progress" in supplying artificial intelligence systems for combat and support operations, according to a new research.

The Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET from the Center for Security and Emerging Technology) at Georgetown University has managed to collect and study tens of thousands of PLA procurement records and presents what it found in a new paper entitled Harnessed Lightning: How the Chinese Military is Adopting Artificial Intelligence.

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Their conclusion: China is moving too fast to make artificial intelligence an integral part of military modernization.

The researchers analyzed 343 artificial intelligence-related contracts awarded by the PLA and state defense companies. Among other things, an analysis of their spending priorities suggests that the PLA is particularly focused on the development of autonomous vehicles and the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve information analysis, information warfare and target recognition.

Procurement records, although public, provide strong indications of strategy and intent, as the military usually does not have unlimited resources, so tracking procurement that leaders decide to spend their money on can be important as well as very instructive. .

So CSET studied more than 66.000 procurement records published between March 30 and December 1, 2020.

Among the things they discovered: PLA units generally do not make their own purchases. Instead, state-owned companies such as the Aviation Industry Corporation of China and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. and their subsidiaries appear to approve most of the artificial intelligence markets.

The study found that PLA adopts artificial intelligence in seven distinct areas:

  • intelligent and autonomous vehicles (especially airborne and submarine vehicles)
  • forecasting maintenance and logistics
  • Surveillance and Identification Information (ISR)
  • information and cyber warfare
  • simulation and training
  • command and control
  • automated target recognition

There were about 120 contracts awarded only for autonomous vehicles.

The exact amount PLA spends on artificial intelligence is difficult to determine, but CSET researchers estimate that the Chinese military spends between $ 1,6 billion and $ 2,7 billion a year on artificial intelligence-related technologies.

This means that their spending on artificial intelligence is equal to that of the US military.

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